Yuvraj Singh looks on

In the 2011 World Cup, Player-of-the-Tournament Yuvraj Singh took 362 runs, 15 wickets and three catches

© AFP/Getty Images

Stats analysis

World Cup MVPs across time

How did Stokes and Shakib fare versus Yuvraj and Klusener? And who is the only player to be among the top two performers for his side in three winning campaigns?

Anantha Narayanan  |  

In this article, I will attempt to determine which players contributed the most to winning teams in each World Cup. The parameters used in the computations are in the sidebar lower down in this article. The complete details of the methodology used for batting and bowling can be found here and here.

The challenge over here is to compare, say, 500 runs in a World Cup with 20 wickets. Deciding whether a hundred should get more points than a four-wicket haul or less cannot be done in an arbitrary manner. It can only be done using a method that equalises the value of runs and wickets by bringing in contextual facts. The method used here has built-in equalisation algorithms. It involves studying hundreds of scorecards, having a clear understanding of what happened in those games, and using intuition, knowledge of the game, and common sense to configure indices with acceptable weights.

Six one-wicket captures might fetch a bowler an average of 30-35 points per spell, whereas two three-wicket spells might fetch only 50-55 points each. This is because some of the basic components of the analysis of a spell are independent of the wickets taken; a spell can secure decent points even when no wickets are taken. This explains why the average points per wicket go down as the number of wickets captured goes up. It is also certain that, other things being equal, two fifties will score more rating points than a hundred.

Performance ratings


Runs scored

Absolute Strike Rate

IVI (Support/Relative SR/%TS)

Bowling quality

Pitch quality

Innings status

Runs with late order


TS/L/R (Team Strength ratio/Location/Result)

Match Importance Index


Wickets captured

SWQ (Spell Wkt Quality)

Bowling Accuracy

Bowling Strike Rate

Batting quality

Pitch quality

Innings status


Match Importance Index

There is a wide variation in numbers between the earlier and more recent World Cups. West Indies, in winning the first two World Cups, played five and four matches respectively; in 2019, 2007 and 2003, the winning teams played 11 matches. To account for this, at the end of the article there are a couple of tables that look at the average points secured per match.

It is essential to include some form of fielding rating points. Unfortunately, the data for run-out contributions is missing for many matches and sketchy for many others; only over the past 15 years or so has this data been made available in proper form. Hence, we will include only catches and stumpings.

Instead of having a plain points-per-catch or stumping metric, I determined the bowling rating points per wicket for each World Cup. This varies from 31.25 in 1979 to 36.7 in 1987, possibly a reflection of the relative difficulty of taking wickets in subcontinental conditions. I have allotted 20% of the average wicket value in a World Cup to each catch taken or stumping effected in that tournament. The value ranges from 6.25 to 7.34.

Inclusion of fielding points will also bring in a degree of fairness to the wicketkeepers, who toil hard for long hours: it allows them to be considered true allrounders.

Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Whether one agrees with the tiebreaker rules or not, it is necessary to acknowledge that the 2019 World Cup was won by England, as decreed by the ICC. Hence, this graphic shows the top three contributors in the England campaign.

Ben Stokes was the MVP for England. He batted with aggression and common sense in the middle order. He had five scores between 79 and 89 in the tournament, although two of those came in losing causes. The unbeaten 84 in the final was a magnificent innings, which led to the tournament win. He also had useful bowling spells against South Africa and Bangladesh.

Chris Woakes was always there for England with his all-round contributions. He was very good at the beginning of an innings, keeping it tight and picking up useful wickets, and he was devastating against Australia in the semi-final. In several matches, including the final, he provided early breakthroughs and had many useful cameos. He even did well batting at No. 3 against West Indies. And he took eight catches, some of them spectacular.

Joe Root provided stability in the middle order after explosive starts by Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. When one of the openers failed, it was Root who took England to safety. His hundred kept them in the hunt against Pakistan, and the one against West Indies made the chase a walk in the park. He took two key wickets, and his 13 catches were the most by a fielder in the competition.

While acknowledging that England had the best credentials to be named winners of the World Cup, given that there were two ties before they were adjudged winners on an unsatisfactory parameter, I will recognise three New Zealand players who deserve to share top billing.

Jimmy Neesham was the best player for New Zealand, with 578.8 points. He scored 232 runs, took 15 wickets, including three in the final, and took four catches. Trent Boult followed, with 551.2 points, mainly for his 17 wickets. Kane Williamson is in third place, with 522.3 points: 578 runs, two key wickets and six catches form the basis for his impressive total.

Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Barring a lone blip against New Zealand in the league stage, Australia bulldozed their way through the 2015 tournament. Mitchell Starc took 22 wickets and was consistency personified. He took 6 for 28 in a lost match against New Zealand, 4 for 14 against Scotland, and in his six other matches, two wickets each. Ten of these 22 wickets were those of lower-order batsmen. The five catches he took helped him leapfrog over Glenn Maxwell into top place.

Maxwell started with a quick-fire 66 off 40 balls against England, followed it with a breathtaking 88 (off 39) against Afghanistan, a magnificent 102 (53) versus Sri Lanka - one of the fastest hundreds in World Cup history - and a cameo against India in the semi-final. Of his 324 runs, struck at 182, as many as 236 were against top teams. In addition, he took six wickets, all of which were of top-order batsmen, for scores below 35: reasons why he has more bowling points than batting points.

Mitchell Johnson took 15 wickets - including 3 for 30 in the final - which gave him substantial rating points.


2011 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Yuvraj Singh was the best performer in the 2011 World Cup by the proverbial mile. With a tally of 362 runs, 15 wickets - most of which were of top-order batsmen - and three catches, he secured the most rating points of anyone in the tournament. He scored 58 off 50 balls against England, 50 against Ireland, 51 against Netherlands, 113 against West Indies, and a crucial 57 off 65 against Australia in the quarter-final.

Zaheer Khan took 3 for 64 against England, 3 for 30 against Ireland, 3 for 20 against Netherlands and 3 for 26 against West Indies. He was the most consistent bowler in the tournament, and his tally of 21 wickets included 16 top-order batsmen.

Sachin Tendulkar missed out in the final, but he scored 120 against England, 111 against South Africa, and a tough 85 in the semi-final against Pakistan. Most of his runs were against top sides.


2007 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Glenn McGrath ruled the roost in the West Indies in 2007. He took 26 wickets, 23 of which were of top-order batsmen. His spells included three-wicket hauls against Scotland, West Indies, Bangladesh, England, Ireland and South Africa in the semi-final. That was some consistency.

Brad Hogg, the only top-flight left-arm wristspinner back then, had spells of 4 for 27 against Netherlands, 3 for 61 against South Africa, and 3 for 56 against West Indies - 13 of his 21 wickets were top-order batsmen.

Matthew Hayden's performance in this tournament was among the best by a batsman for a World Cup-winning team. He scored 60 against Scotland, a magnificent 101 against South Africa, 158 against West Indies and a beautifully crafted 103 against New Zealand. On top of this, he had five other scores between 38 and 45. Very few of these were easy-to-get runs.


2003 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In 2003, the top three positions were taken by three pace bowlers. Brett Lee took 5 for 42 against New Zealand and had three-wicket hauls against India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Sri Lanka again in the semi-final, where he dismissed Marvan Atapattu, Hashan Tillakaratne and Avishka Gunawardene for a total of 18 runs.

McGrath had a terrific spell of 7 for 15 against Namibia and 3 for 29 against New Zealand. In the final, against India, his 3 for 52 included Tendulkar for 4 and Mohammad Kaif for 0. Again, most of McGrath's 21 wickets were those of top-order batsmen.

Andy Bichel took 3 for 13 against Netherlands and his cameo of 19 in the semi-final against Sri Lanka was invaluable in a low-scoring game. His 7 for 20 and 34 (36) against England were among the greatest bowling and all-round performances in ODI history.


1999 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In the 1999 World Cup, Shane Warne was instrumental in scripting Australia's come-from-behind triumph. Warne started with 3 for 39 against Scotland and 3 for 11 against West Indies. He finished with a magnificent 4 for 29 - one of the greatest World Cup spells - in the semi-final against South Africa in a thrilling tie, and 4 for 33 in the final against Pakistan. Most of Warne's wickets were top-order ones.

McGrath had a devastating spell of 5 for 14 against West Indies and 3 for 34 against India, which included the wickets of Tendulkar for 0, Rahul Dravid for 2, and Mohammad Azharuddin for 3. He also had the key dismissal of Mark Boucher in the tied semi-final to his name.

Steve Waugh scored 62 against Zimbabwe and played an all-time great innings of 120 against South Africa in the crucial Super Sixes match. Equally important was the 56 in the tied semi-final. He had two other scores of 49.


1996 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

This was the year the lion pounced. In 1996, Sri Lanka overcame two more favoured teams in the semi-final and final with ease. The architect of these two wins was Aravinda de Silva.

However, Sanath Jayasuriya occupies the top spot with his all-round performances: 79 against India in a tough chase in the league phase, and 82 against England in the quarter-final. He took 3 for 12 in the semi-final against India: Tendulkar, Sanjay Manjrekar and Ajay Jadeja were the victims.

De Silva's unbeaten century and three wickets against Australia in the final was one of the great all-round performances. He also had a match-winning 66 in the semi-final. However, before these knockout matches, more than half his runs were scored against Kenya.

Muralitharan comes in third, for his consistency: there was no one standout performance from him.


1992 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Pakistan came back from the brink to win the 1992 World Cup. Wasim Akram was the lynchpin: he took three wickets against Zimbabwe, four against New Zealand in the make-or-break league match, and three crucial wickets in the final against England, a match in which he also scored 33 off 18 balls.

Imran Khan scored 72 against England in the final, which set up the match. Often batting up the order, he also had other useful contributions, most of them against top teams. He also took seven wickets.

Mushtaq Ahmed had figures of 3 for 59 against India, 3 for 41 against Australia, and an invaluable 3 for 41 in the final, which included the wickets of Graham Gooch and Graeme Hick. Almost all his wickets were top-order batsmen.


1987 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In 1987, the Australian team was a very different side from those that dominated the World Cup scene in the 2000s. This Australian side was in the process of rebuilding, and surprised everyone by winning the tournament.

The young allrounder Steve Waugh was the leading performer. He did not have a fifty or a three-wicket haul in any match, but there was no game in which he did not contribute with the bat and ball.

Craig McDermott had spells of 4 for 56 and 3 for 61 against India and 5 for 44 against Pakistan.

Allan Border was the third-placed player, again with no standout performance, showing how much of a team effort Australia's victory was.


1983 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In 1983 it was not just a case of David slaying Goliath: it was a midget David slaying Goliath. Kapil Dev's all-time-great innings of 175 off 138 balls came against a Zimbabwe side that was similar in strength to India at that time. His 40 and 5 for 43 against Australia was a magnificent double in a losing cause, and his 3 for 35 against England in the semi-final swept away the hosts' lower order.

Madan Lal took 3 for 27 against Zimbabwe in Leicester, and in the key Tunbridge Wells encounter against them he scored an important 17 and took 3 for 42. In the final, against West Indies, he had a crucial spell of 3 for 31 and scored 17 again.

Mohinder Amarnath made critical contributions in the league stage. However, he kept his best for the knockout rounds. In the semi-final against England, he dismissed David Gower and Mike Gatting and scored an invaluable 46. In the final, he scored a patient 26 and finished off the West Indian innings with three key wickets.


1979 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Viv Richards was outstanding in the 1979 World Cup, especially in the later stages. He scored 42 and took 3 for 52 in the semi-final, against Pakistan, and then struck a magnificent 138 in the final, versus England.

Collis King's performance was similar in that almost everything came in the knockout matches. He bettered a lovely cameo of 34 against Pakistan in the semi-final with an outstanding 86 in the final, where he comfortably outpaced the great Richards.

Joel Garner dismissed John Wright and John Morrison against New Zealand while defending a middling total. In the final against England, he was in top flight, taking 5 for 38.

The ratings points for this tournament are low since West Indies played only four games, with their Sri Lanka match rained off.


1975 Anantha Narayanan / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

With their natural attacking flair, West Indies took to the ODI game like ducks to water and lifted the inaugural World Cup in 1975. The captain, Clive Lloyd, scored a quick 53 against Pakistan and a match-winning 102 in the final, against Australia. He also dismissed Doug Walters in that game.

It was a World Cup for lesser-known allrounders. Bernard Julien took 4 for 20 against Sri Lanka and 4 for 27 against New Zealand in the semi-final. He also made 26 in the final, adding valuable runs for the last two wickets.

Keith Boyce had a useful spell of 3 for 22 against Sri Lanka. His 4 for 50 in the final was a big factor in restricting Australia.

Top performers in World Cup-winning campaigns
So which player has contributed most to his team's wins? In this analysis, I have presented 36 tournament-winning performances. Only one player has three entries: McGrath was the best performer for Australia in 2007, and second best in 1999 and 2003. There is no doubt that he is the greatest contributor to the World Cup-winning cause, by a mile or two. One could justifiably call him the MVP of the 12 World Cups taken together.

While looking at the table above, keep in mind that these are runs scored, wickets taken, catches taken, stumpings made, and points secured in World Cup-winning campaigns only. I have listed the top performers by aggregate rating points.

McGrath's aggregate in these three World Cups is an astounding 1707 points. It is worth mentioning that in the 1996 World Cup, which Australia did not win, he secured over 300 points.

Adam Gilchrist, one of the great allrounders of the game, is in second place, with nearly 1200 points: look at the number of wicketkeeping dismissals.

Third place is taken by Brad Hogg, who had crucial runs and catches to supplement his bowling.

In a table dominated by Australian players, Yuvraj Singh stands out, having gathered nearly 700 points in the one World Cup he played as part of a winning team. Kapil Dev has well over 600 points.

Unfortunately the winning West Indians played in too few matches to accumulate enough points. In order to be fair to the players who won those first few World Cups, I have set out another table listing the players in the order of rating points per match. The selection criterion is that the player should have played a minimum of five matches.

The top four here played stellar roles in their team's campaigns. Jayasuriya's average is quite high, indicating the value he brought to the team in all three departments, as is that of de Silva, who is in fourth position.

Kapil and Yuvraj's roles, in the 1983 and 2011 campaigns respectively, are among the best ever contributions to Indian cricket. They exceed 75 points per match. Madan Lal provided excellent support in 1983.

Australia provide a fine example of teamwork: not one of the players who participated in multiple winning campaigns finds a place here. Bichel and Lee, who played in 2003, are the leading Australians in this table. It is nice to see Julien, that unassuming allrounder from the 1975 winning team, here.

The most recent additions to the table are Stokes and Liam Plunkett, who averaged above 60 points per match in the 2019 World Cup.

Top performers in each World Cup
In this table, I have presented the top performers in each tournament based on rating points - irrespective of whether their team won the title or not.

Out of the 12 top performers, five belong to winning teams and these players are identified with an asterisk prefixed to the team name. The aggregate points should not be compared, since the number of matches varies between the World Cups. However, the average points are comparable.

On this measure, Shakib Al Hasan stands very tall indeed. An average well over 90 points per match is extraordinary. Next is Lance Klusener, who lit up the 1999 World Cup. He averaged nearly 84 points per match.

Kapil, with his tournament-winning efforts in 1983, follows with 78 points per match. It is interesting to note that many of the players featured here are true allrounders or had all-round contributions in the tournament. The only exceptions are Lee in 2003 and Boult in 2015.

Update: August 5, 2019, 6.20GMT

It is clear that bowlers/allrounders have got the lion's share of the placements here. A brief explanation follows:

After doing the work independently for the batting and bowling ratings, I used appropriate multiplication factors to equalise the values. My main objective was to get the top values very close to each other and the 100th values to be within 5% of each other. The lower values are left as they are. However, this does not mean that there is perfection in this equalisation method.

Till date (July 1), there have been 72,942 innings and 49,646 spells in ODI history. As such the average points for spells are much higher than the average points for each innings. The bowling spells accumulate a lot more points than the batting innings.

One of the main reasons is explained by a scoreline such as the one from the Pakistan-West Indies match at the 2019 World Cup: Pakistan were 105 all out and West Indies made 108 for 3. The bowlers in the match secured 337 rating points and the batsmen 192.

The contra match is very difficult to find. In this World Cup, the India-Australia match produced almost equal values: 464 and 478. There is no match in which batsmen got more points than bowlers - not even the Johannesburg ODI in 2006 where South Africa chased down Australia's 434.

The reason is simple. In a normal non-D/L match, it's necessary for the bowlers to do well for 50 overs or to get ten wickets (and two to five bowlers come into the picture). On the other hand, a team can bat for 26 balls, score 40 and win a match.

The other important point is that normally three or four bowlers share the spoils. In a typical innings, six to seven batsmen fight for points.

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Anantha Narayanan has written for ESPNcricinfo and CastrolCricket and worked with a number of companies on their cricket performance ratings-related systems